Knowledge base

What is the PDCA cycle?

How the PDCA Cycle Strengthens Lean Methodology

Lean methodology has gained immense traction in various sectors for its efficiency in eliminating waste and improving operational processes. One of the fundamental tools often overlooked in Lean is the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. This versatile management method forms the backbone of Lean’s continuous improvement model, helping organisations achieve efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s a closer look at the relationship between the PDCA cycle and Lean.

The History of PDCA

The PDCA cycle was developed in the 1930s by Walter Shewhart, a physicist at Bell Telephone, and it became a cornerstone in the world of quality management. W. Edwards Deming later introduced this methodology to Japan in the 1950s, where it became an integral part of the nation’s industrial resurgence. In Japan, it is often known as the Deming cycle, and sometimes referred to as Plan-Do-Study-Action (PDSA).

The Four Phases of PDCA


Defining the problem is the first critical step. It’s where you establish the objectives and processes necessary to achieve results. This phase aligns perfectly with Lean’s emphasis on setting clear goals and minimizing waste in all forms.


This is the execution phase. To maintain the essence of Lean, it’s crucial to conduct the plan under controlled, test circumstances. By starting small, you can measure the results without wasting resources, staying true to Lean principles.


Review the results to see if your objectives have been met. Lean thrives on data-driven decision-making, and this is where it shines the most. Analyze the data collected during the ‘Do’ phase to verify whether the changes have resulted in improvements.


If your test showed positive results, the next step is to implement it on a larger scale. Lean isn’t just about making changes but making them stick. Update standard work instructions and educate your team to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

PDCA in the Context of Lean Kaizens

In Japan, the PDCA is often seen as the basic model for conducting Kaizens—small, daily improvements. Within the scope of Lean, PDCA is most commonly employed for these Kaizens or Daily Improvements. Its simplicity and efficacy make it an accessible tool for anyone within an organization to enact meaningful change.

Conclusion PDCA

Lean and the PDCA cycle are a match made in efficiency heaven. Both philosophies aim for the same outcome: streamlined processes, minimal waste, and continuous improvement. So, the next time you delve into a Lean project, remember to integrate the PDCA cycle into your strategies to maximize results.

By using the PDCA cycle in your Lean methodology, you’re not only fostering a culture of continuous improvement but also driving your organisation towards operational excellence.

Online courses
100% Dmaic, at your own pace

Most popular article